Breastfeeding a baby can be one of the most rewarding aspects of new motherhood. Nothing can compare to the warmth and security mother and baby feel as they snuggle together. Motherhood, however, can be overwhelming enough without the added pressure of fulfilling an extended breastfeeding relationship. So whether you choose to breastfeed your baby for the first few weeks, or for the first year, or longer -- Remember: you must do what’s best for both of you!
But no matter what you decide, just know that there are breastfeeding resources available to help you along the way. Most women who have breastfed are very open to sharing their personal experiences, including their successes and challenges during the process. The one thing every one of these moms will tell you is that breastfeeding requires lots of practice and patience.
Remember that although breastfeeding is natural, the first few days of your baby’s life can be the most challenging. Rely on your friends and family for support and encouragement. And seek advice from a lactation consultant or friends who have nursed — their tips may prove to be incredibly helpful.
The following is a list of the most common questions many new moms have about breastfeeding:
How does breastfeeding work?
During your pregnancy, your breasts change in preparation for milk production and breastfeeding. Certain hormones promote breast growth and development during pregnancy. The milk is actually produced in clusters of tissue in the breasts – also known as alveoli or milk-producing cells. Once your newborn latches on after birth, he/she compresses the ducts and suckles, signaling your brain to release oxytocin – this is the same hormone during childbirth which contracts the uterus to push the baby out. The oxytocin squeezes the alveoli and the milk comes down through the ducts and out of the nipple.
What are the basic principles of breastfeeding?
A mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying nursing relationship and an adequate milk supply. The more frequently and effectively your baby nurses, the more milk will be made. Pick a quiet, comfortable place to nurse your baby. Proper alignment and latch-on with the baby at the breast are also key. Make sure your baby’s mouth covers a big part of the areola below the nipple, and your nipple should be far back in your baby's mouth. Remember: nursing should not be painful. If latch-on hurts, gently break the suction with your finger and try again.
What are the best breastfeeding positions?
There are several breastfeeding positions that you can try. Most importantly, you want to be sure to hold your baby in a position that won't leave your arms and back sore. The football hold involves holding your baby at your side and bringing her up to your breast. The cradle hold involves holding your baby across the front of you as you cradle her. The side-lying position involves you and your baby lying on your sides. You may also find that a nursing pillow can be a big help in supporting your baby.
Tip: Place a big soft pillow at your side to support your arm and the baby's weight.
How often should I breastfeed my newborn?
Approximately every two to three hours for the first few months. This translates to eight to 12 feedings in every 24 hours.
How do I know that my baby is getting enough milk?
Once your transitional milk has come in and your baby is several days old, you may be able to assess baby’s breast milk intake in the following ways. If your breasts feel softer after a feeding and your baby has at least 5 wet and 3 stooled diapers per day, then your baby is most likely getting enough milk. Your doctor will evaluate your baby’s weight at every check-up, which will also determine whether or not your baby is getting enough milk.
Is there a special diet for breastfeeding mothers?
A healthy, well-balanced diet is all you and your baby need while you're nursing. It’s important to maintain a well-balanced diet for your own health, but you don't need to follow complicated dietary rules to successfully nurse your baby. Experts recommend that nursing moms get an extra 400 to 500 calories a day to help with adequate milk production. You may want to limit caffeine, and avoid chocolate, spicy foods, and other irritants that get into breast milk and can bother your baby. And be sure to drink lots of fluids.
Tip: Just before you nurse your baby, pour yourself a tall glass of water to drink while you are nursing. This will make sure you have enough liquid in your system to produce the milk your baby needs.
Who can I call if I need help after I am discharged from the hospital?
Lactation Services at (314) 996-5747